Welcome to your weekly run-down of all the big news, strange rules and interesting happenings from the world of US politics.
Two pretty remarkable things happened on Capitol Hill this week.
First, the four-year joke of “Infrastructure Week” came to an end (a gag even the President acknowledged).
And second, a bill that’d been the subject of months of tricky negotiations between Democrats and Republicans arrived on the Senate floor — and passed in an overwhelming display of bipartisanship.
ep, Joe Biden’s $US1 trillion ($1.355 trillion) infrastructure bill — a key election promise — finally became a reality. Kind of.
We’ll get to the fascinating political implications and ripples for all of this, but we really can’t overlook the real-world impacts the bill has for hundreds of millions of Americans.
Some of the weirder areas it touches on include more tax regulations on crypto currencies and efforts to make it easier to transport blood.
But back to those implications and ripples.
A total of 19 Republicans voted in favour of the infrastructure bill, and it got a whopping 69 votes in the 100-vote Senate.
The usual suspects were there — your Mitt Romneys, your Lisa Murkowskis, your Susan Collins — but names like Chuck Grassley, Lindsay Graham and Kevin Kramer joined them.
Keen observers will know those last three names take their cues from Mar-A-Lago more often than from their more moderate colleagues.
It’s not like there was a lack of direction from Donald Trump on the bill. The former president tried — hard — to exert his outside influence over Republicans and torpedo the bill.
“This will be a big victory for the Democrats and will be used against Republicans in the upcoming elections,” Trump said in one of a number of statements issued against the bill.
But he failed, and several Republican aides told the New York Times the episode showed Trump’s power over the Senate was diminished, but not gone.
Some of those Republican senators seemed to operate on the thesis that supporting this bill was better for their electoral survival than trying to please MAGA world.
On the other side of the aisle, the passing of the bill didn’t end the fight for President Biden. It just ushered a different set of opponents into the ring.
All the concessions granted to bring the moderate Republicans on side in the Senate didn’t go down super well with progressive Democrats in the House of Representatives.
The bill passed by the Senate still needs approval in the House before Biden signs it, but more than 100 Democrats (including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) have said they won’t vote on it yet.
And high-profile Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was more than happy to fire a public warning shot from progressives across the bow of the White House.
Of course, that $3.5 trillion bill faces roadblocks in the Senate because of … the same moderate Democrats and Republicans who just worked together to pass the infrastructure bill.
Barack Obama’s 2016 Democratic Convention speech had a nugget for times like this:
As for the current President, he fended off questions about the upcoming resistance from within his own ranks with the same careful optimism, and unwillingness to negotiate via the press, that got the Senate bill over the line.
“I think we will get enough Democrats to vote for it. And I think that the House will eventually put two bills on my desk. One on infrastructure and one on reconciliation,” Biden said.
Reporters tried to goad Biden into taking a swing at his House colleagues, an invitation his predecessor would have taken more often than not.
It was just about a year ago that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was lauded as an anti-Trump hero.
His calm, caring leadership style stood out during coronavirus. So much so that a few “Thank you Andrew Cuomo” yard signs could be spotted in the nation’s capital.
This week, he resigned from his job, facing on-the-record sexual harassment allegations, claims that he covered up COVID deaths in aged care homes and accusations he used his staff to bury unflattering details about his pandemic response so he could secure a $US5 million a book deal.
Not to mention the threat of criminal charges, calls for impeachment, and a huge #MeToo test for the Democratic party.
So, no, those yard signs aren’t coming back.
When his resignation takes effect in two weeks, Lieutenant-Governor Kathy Hochul will finish out his term.
She’ll be the first female governor of America’s fourth-biggest state, which is a bit of a fitting denouement for at least the sexual harassment thread of the saga.
For more on Cuomo’s fall from grace, head here.
Postcards from Mar-a-Lago
Fox News, once the kingmaker of America’s Republican politics, this week edited out false statements from an interview with former president Donald Trump.
According to a transcript from Mediaite, Trump’s mention of a “fake election” plus “voter abuse and voter fraud like nobody’s ever seen before” were scrapped from a live interview with host Dan Bongino when it was later posted on Youtube.
It’s tempting to see this as a turning point.
Fox News viewership has taken a dip since Trump began attacking the network at the end of his term, but it still averages 2.1 million viewers per month. It’s far and away America’s most-watched network — a huge influence on self-identifying Republicans.
Half of whom, by the way, still believe Biden’s election victory was illegitimate.
That said, Trump’s support has surged when measured by other metrics. He’s sitting on more than $US90 million in funds thanks to his 2021 donations (although, he did have to return another $US12 million of that thanks to possible ethics violations).
And, maybe most tellingly, when a Trump spokesperson took to Twitter to attack Bongino, the Trump fans came out swinging, taking some strategies from the #CancelCulture playbook.[SOURCE]